Staunton, Sept. 24 – Putin’s expanded war in Ukraine has already led to the loss of three percent of the 1500 remaining Saamis in northwestern Russia, a development that has attracted attention as has the return of two Russian criminals who killed a Saami but now have come back after service in the Wagner PMC as heroes.
But a more serious threat to the future of Russia’s Saami nation involves Moscow’s plans to develop lithium and palladium mining in the remaining Saami areas inside the Russian Federation to compensate for the cutting off of supplies of these two rare earth minerals from Western countries (severreal.org/a/narod-zapugan-podavlen-chto-zhdet-saamov-iz-za-voyny/32606238.html and vedomosti.ru/business/articles/2022/09/13/940517-sozdat-dobichu-redkih-metallov).
Lithium and palladium are important components in batteries and catalytic converters, but they are notoriously difficult to mine and handle. If Moscow’s plan to mine both in the Murmansk areas where Russia’s Saami live, much of the remaining traditional environment is likely to be destroyed and with it the basis of their national survival.
Few Saami activists remain at large in Russia and most of the remaining population is too frightened to complain, but the larger Saami populations in Scandinavia – there are 60,000 Saami in Norway, 15,000 in Sweden and 5,000 in Finland – are alarmed and have been calling for the Scandinavian countries to take in the remaining Saami of Russia.
They have had some success: Even though Norway has stopped issuing visas to Russians, Oslo has made an exception in the case of the Saami and some of them have emigrated. But Moscow has launched a propaganda campaign against that and so the numbers have still be small (indigenous-russia.com/archives/26889).